Don Bachali ’57 had been a part of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association since its earliest beginnings, but whenever he asked newer members if they knew how the association got started, no one could answer him.
“I felt like the history should be written down, and I kept waiting for someone to do it,” he said.
The native of St. Joseph and current Vero Beach, Florida resident finally decided that if he wanted the history of ALEA recorded, he would have to do it himself. Last year, after a 2 ½-year effort, he self-published a 190-page “The History of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association.”
According to its website, ALEA is a nonprofit educational organization founded to support and encourage the use of aircraft in public safety. The organization provides networking systems, educational seminars and product expositions, and there are more than 3,000 members today. Bachali says that number increases to around 5,000 if you count all past members, as well.
The national organization started with a seminar in St. Louis for just seven or eight pilots, the author said. By the next year, 30 attended a seminar, and the membership just kept growing from there. Bachali noted that several Missourians were instrumental in getting ALEA started.
The book includes chapters on the first and second seminars and conventions, a history of female pilots, and a history of early law enforcement aviation programs. One chapter is titled,
“Equipment: Then & Now.”
After graduating with an associate degree from the St. Joseph Junior College, Bachali was accepted in the architecture program at the University of Kansas, where he also enrolled in the ROTC program.
At the end of his junior year, he was accepted into the infantry branch and the Army flight training program and began training during his senior year.
Bachali was a pilot for the Army, even completing a tour in Vietnam, until 1966. He worked then as an architect for a short time before returning to the skies with Hughes Helicopters. He retired from McDonnell Douglas in 1994.
Bachali said he has received a good response from the book. All proceeds from its sales are being used to establish a scholarship fund for dependents of law enforcement and military personnel.
“It’s been a joy to write it and a great journey.”